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Slow but sure, doctors are beginning to get on top of Parkinson’s

April 2019

Parkinson's disease
No one wants to be told they are suffering from Parkinson’s

News has just come out about a new treatment from Canada that has restored certain movement of patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the problems associated with ageing because the symptoms usually begin to show after the age of 50. One in 500 people being affected by Parkinson’s, and at the moment there is no cure, so it is no wonder that as we age, Parkinson’s is one of the diseases we start worrying about.

The problem is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that is responsible for producing dopamine. This chemical is essential in our wellbeing because it helps transport messages between our brain and our nervous system, so that we can control and co-ordinate body movements.

For some yet unknown reason, sometimes these nerve cells become damaged or die, and the amount of dopamine we produce is therefore reduced. This is usually a very slow process, and the main symptoms of Parkinson’s only start to develop when around three quarters of the nerve cells in this part of the brain have been damaged.

This is why the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease usually start off very mildly and it is only when the disease really starts taking hold that the disease is often diagnosed.

Physical movement is the main problem associated with Parkinson’s; usually a tremor or slight shaking, often in the hand or arm; a slowness of movement including walking; and muscle stiffness which can affect many parts of the body, from camps to problems with facial expressions. Balance can also be a problem.

Sometimes there are other problems associated with this disease such as slight memory loss or dementia.

At the moment there is no cure for Parkinson’s; although symptoms are helped with certain medications and other supportive treatments. But there is a vast amount of research going on around the world involving a range of ideas including stem cell therapies and gene therapies. Brain surgery has also been looked at.

A more recent treatment is DBS or deep brain stimulation. This involved planting electrodes into the brain to control movement and there have reports of some excellent successes from this procedure.

The latest treatment from Canada though is being hailed as a major step forward. It involves the electrical stimulation of the spine and reports say that the treatment can have real effect on patients who have been housebound due to a risk of falling. After the electrical stimulation, the same patients have been able to go shopping and even go on holiday.

Professor Mandar Jog, of the Western University and associate scientific director of Lawson Health Research Institute in London, Ontario, said that the benefit of the new treatment was well beyond his wildest dreams.

He worked on his belief that Parkinson’s disease can reduce the signals coming back to the brain which breaks the normal flow and can cause a patient to freeze. The new implant his team has developed offers electrical stimulus to reawaken the feedback mechanism from the legs to the brain, enabling the patient to walk normally.

With all the research going on around the world, hopefully the disease will soon be better understood and a cure will be found.

In the meantime, there is a lot of information and support available, including from
parkinsons.org.uk
cureparkinsons.org.uk
helpinghandshomecare.co.uk/parkinsons/
scitecheuropa.eu/chronic-parkinsons-disease/


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